April 9th is Vimy Ridge Day, an official National Day of Remembrance of the Battle.
Vimy is also Canada’s symbol of commemoration for the First World War: 1914-1918.
“Poets and Poet Laureates from British Columbia to the Maritimes wrote heart‐felt poems expressing the thoughts and feelings of Canadians toward the bravery and sacrifice of our soldiers. For many, their poem was a personal tribute to a father, grandfather, uncle… or to a more recent fallen soldier.Their poems communicate the belief that the soldiers’ spirits will live on through the planting of the Vimy Oaks and that each tree will be a silent requiem for the past and a symbol of Canadians’ commitment to still stand on guard in the future.”
The poem below is dedicated to Sir Arthur Currie, my great-uncle.
After storming Vimy Ridge, he was appointed head of the Canadian Corps in June, 1917.
The Stand of Oak
Battle’s devastation cut down men and oaks,
leaving Vimy Ridge bare from ’16 till now.
But one veteran sent a few acorns to Canada
and raised a grove memento. Now these trees
will stand as metaphor for endurance, mingled
roots living on in lieu of the soldiers who fell.
Now our Canadian branches will be returning
home to be grafted on European oak saplings.
They’ll respond to wind in the crackling Fall.
These oaks will listen through trembling roots
to news that travels in the near neighbourwood:
subtle climate shiftings from drought to deluge.
The lobed leaves that open to embrace sun, to
soak in rain: they will know a longer time we
can only imagine, knowing history’s record.
This copse you plant now may not remember
a war a century past though it could realize its
own long span to last the whole millennium.
The oaks you plant on Vimy Ridge will not be
thinking of men today or ever: their work is in
attending to the rise from heartwood out to leaf.
These oaks may not thank you personally but
their presence is gratitude enough, is witness.
Thriving, they will return life to Vimy Ridge.
In the slow dream of trees may the men awake
who died here. May they be recalled by name
in their prime, rising as hope from desolation.